Friday, 31 December 2010

Southeastern: the worst service for the highest price

Passengers on Southeastern trains will be hit by fare rises of up to 12% after a month in which around a third of all scheduled trains were either late or cancelled altogether.

Performance figures for mid-November to December show that 29 per cent of all Southeastern "Metro" services running through Kidbrooke were at least five minutes late or cancelled.

Southeastern's rises are reportedly the highest of any train operating company in the UK, and come after a month in which whole branch lines were closed, and customers were left stranded on freezing trains for hours on end.

The company claim that the fare rises are needed to pay for the so-called Javelin high speed service, a service that most Southeastern passengers receive little or no benefit from.

They also come as Transport for London impose their own massive fare rises, although at least with TfL passengers can see visible improvements being made to the service.

However, when it comes to Southeastern, we seem destined to continue paying the highest prices for the worst service.

-Update- Greg Barker MP is calling for an independent inspection of Southeastern's punctuality figures after they avoided paying compensation by a wafer-thin margin,

Friday, 17 December 2010

The Kidbrooke Kite featured in The Guardian

Many thanks to The Guardian's man about town Dave Hill for featuring us in his weekly roundup of London politics:

The Kidbrooke Kite has been on my to-do list for a while. The work of Top London Blogger Adam Bienkov it gathers news from "Kidbrooke, Eltham West, the Ferrier Estate and beyond." In October it posted at length on the sad tale of the Ferrier, seemingly a classic tale of a regeneration scheme that has in some ways produced more pain than gain. Great work. Read more here.

Dave's blog is an essential read for anyone interested in London politics. You can also sign up to his weekly newsletter over here.

Greenwich Council: too busy to fight the cuts?

In the week that the government dished out huge cuts to council budgets in London you might have expected Greenwich Council to be keen to speak out.

But in a joint letter sent to the Evening Standard today Cllr Chris Roberts was the only Labour council leader not to attach their name. 

I thought this was rather strange given his joke at Wednesday's council meeting about the coalition cuts forcing his mother to burn a book to stay warm.

So I phoned up Labour HQ to ask what had happened. They told me that it was a "fluid" list and that Roberts was probably "too busy dealing with the cuts" to answer in time.

However they told me that they had just received a text message from him saying that he was okay with the letter, albeit too late for him to be included on the published list.

So what took Councillor Roberts so long? Was it a deliberate shunning of Labour's Mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone with whom he has never got on, or a simple oversight?

And either way shouldn't he really have made the effort to sign the letter on time?

Unite union protest against the cuts outside Woolwich Town hall on Wednesday

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Southeastern trains turned off and tuned out.

It's been a grimmer than normal few days on Southeastern trains.

Over the weekend the entire line from Blackheath to Dartford was closed for "essential maintenance" which finished just in time for a little bit of snow to bring the entire network to a grinding and shuddering halt.

Rather than keep their cold and confused customers up to date, Southeastern decided to turn off all train information.

And when I asked in the ticket office at Kidbrooke when the next train would arrive my question was quite literally shrugged off by the member of staff there.

Bit of a tip here. If you ever need to find something out at Kidbrooke station it's best to ask Niall at the coffee stand instead.

He gave me a full update of all the problems on the line that day including the tragic events at Slade Green and even managed to predict the arrival of the next train down to the minute.

Still however bad things have been in Kidbrooke they're far worse on other parts of the Southeastern Network.

Over at Petts Wood last night passengers were trapped on a train for up to five and a half hours. As the hours went by they eventually gave up all hopes of a rescue by Southeastern and broke out:

The best advice for tonight is to avoid Southeastern altogether, but if you really do have to use them, then make sure you're off by 20.00 because trains will be finishing very early indeed.

So there you go, another winter, another totally shambolic and unaccountable service provided by Southeastern.

Are there any politicians willing to do something about it? I'd wager there's a few votes in it somewhere.

-Update- London-wide Lib Dem Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon said today:

“Back in January during the two days of snow Southeastern passengers faced a double whammy of a much reduced train service combined with an appalling lack of useful information being provided by the train company.

“Almost a year later it seems Southeastern have failed to actually implement any improvements in communicating with their passengers.  Southeastern even accept that they need to make many improvements in how they communicate.  Clearly their planned improvements have also faced delays on the line.

“If Southeastern cannot maintain a full train service at the very least it must keep its passengers fully updated about the reduced service they are currently providing, starting with far more accurate and useful information being provided on their website.

"In addition there are simply no excuses for any station not keeping its passengers fully updated.   At a time of such a disrupted service it is vital that information is continually made available via electronic boards and audible announcements at every station"